Dispute Resolution In Land Matters

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Dispute Resolution In Land Matters


Dispute resolution on land issues often have extensive negative effects on economic, social, spatial and ecological development. This is especially true in developing countries like Nigeria, where land market institutions are weak, opportunities for economic gain by illegal action are widespread and many poor people lack access to land. Land matters can have disastrous effects on individuals as well as on groups and even entire nations. Many conflicts that are perceived to be clashes between different cultures are actually conflicts over land and related natural resources. As a result, conflicts have been increasingly acknowledged, a critical factor to the attainment of secure land tenure rights, development, peace-keeping and peacebuilding. This study seeks to discuss the use of dispute resolution as a viable tool in land conflicts matters. The study points out outstanding challenges and opportunities brought about through the application of dispute resolution. This study also provides practical approaches to application of conflict resolutions. The way forward and conclusions sections draws attention to further research besides offering helpful insights with an aim to aid in resolving land conflicts and even other conflicts outside the land sector.

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

Dispute resolution is a mechanism of solving a dispute out of court. “Dispute resolution generally refers to one of several different processes used to resolve disputes between parties, including negotiation, mediation, arbitration, collaborative law, and litigation. It is composed of fields such as: mediation, arbitration, negotiation, reconciliation, fact finding, expert determination, private judging. Some fields require expert opinion for instance in determining scientific and or technical matters. Such fields including but not limited to arbitration among others, and as such have expertise. It’s noted that these methods are cheaper and faster to resolve contrary to court processes.

Although several initiatives and advocacy efforts have been made to address land-related matters in Nigeria, there are still existing challenges prohibiting amicable resolutions to problems in the land sector. In addressing some of these challenges, the National Land Commission’s management role in public land is noted in the 1999 Constitution.

Land matters are indeed a widespread phenomenon, and can occur at any time or place. Both need and greed can equally lead to them, and scarcity and increases in land value can make things worse. Land conflicts especially occur when there is a chance to obtain land for free – no matter if this land is state, common or someone’s private property. Inheritance conflicts and disputes between neighbors are most often about land (and other immobile property). In post-conflict situations or during the early phases of economic transition (e. g. privatization), when regulatory institutions, controls and mechanisms of sanctions are not yet in place, people eagerly grab land if their position allows for it or forfeit land if they are in a weak position. In those countries where land only now and slowly is receiving a material value and increasingly becoming private property (such as all over Africa), people also try to accumulate as much land as possible. During colonial times, dominant European nations tried to occupy all the land outside Europe that seemed useful (fertile or rich in minerals). Today, the powerful are mostly national elites and international (mining) companies. The conflicts though are similar: local people with long-standing de facto rights often held for several generations lose their land to the powerful.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

It is also important to note that Land disputes related to access, use and control of natural resources are common in all parts of Kenya regardless of the tenure system. These land disputes have far reaching negative effects. Their resolutions in the most effective and efficient way is a critical requirement for sustainable land management and hence economic growth as well as enhancing national unity.

Land conflicts often have extensive negative effects on economic, social, spatial and ecological development. This is especially true in developing countries and countries in transition, where land market institutions are weak, opportunities for economic gain by illegal action are widespread and many poor people lack access to land. Land conflicts can have disastrous effects on individuals as well as on groups and even entire nations. Many conflicts that are perceived to be clashes between different cultures are actually conflicts over land and related natural resources.

Land conflicts occur in many forms. There are conflicts between single parties (as for instance boundary conflicts between neighbours), inheritance conflicts between siblings and disputes over the use of a given piece of land. These conflicts are comparably easy to solve. Those that include several parties though – such as group invasions or evictions of entire settlements – are more difficult to deal with. In many countries, indigenous people have been dispossessed or live at risk of being dispossessed due to either failure to recognize their rights to land or invalidation of those rights by the state, or through expropriation or privatization of their lands by the state (UN-HABITAT/ OHCHR 2005). In countries where part of the population – often indigenous people – have historically been deprived of their land rights, more serious conflicts can arise even decades or generations later. Guatamala provides such a case. In 1879, communal lands were de facto expropriated by a law giving proprietors three months to register land titles, after which the land would be declared abandoned. Most of the “abandoned” land was then allocated to large coffee growers. Although there were attempts at redistribution in the early 1950s, these were stopped and reversed following a military coup in 1954. Since then, struggle over land has continued, leading to violent conflict time and again (Deininger 2003).

1.3 Objectives of the Study

This researcher is aimed at examining dispute resolution in land matters in Nigeria. The following are the sub objectives of this study:

  1. To provide an overview on dispute resolution in land matters in Nigeria.
  2. To examine the problems of land reforms in Nigeria.
  3. To analyze the solution to the problems of land dispute in Nigeria.

1.4 Research Questions

  1. Are there issues like land disputes in Nigeria?
  2. Are there problems of land reforms in Nigeria?
  3. Are there possible solutions to the problems of land disputes in Nigeria?

1.5 Significance of the Study

The following are the significance of this study:

  1. Outcome of this study will educate the general public and students on the issues, problems and solutions of land dispute in Nigeria with a view of identifying the inadequacies.
  2. This research will also serve as a resource base to other scholars and researchers interested in carrying out further research in this field subsequently, if applied, it will go to an extent to provide new explanation to the topic.

1.7 Scope / Limitations of the Study

This study on dispute resolution in land matters in Nigeria will cover all the issues and problems of land issues in Nigeria. It will cover the activities of the regulatory framework and the accessibility of land to Nigerians for use.

Limitation of Study
Financial constraint

Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).

Time constraint

The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.

1.8 Definition of Terms


Dispute is an argument or disagreement, especially an official one between, for example, workers and employers or two countries with a common border.


Resolution is defined as an official decision that is made after a group or organization has voted.

Dispute Resolution:

Dispute resolution is the process of resolving disputes between parties. The term dispute resolution may also be used interchangeably with conflict resolution, where conflict styles can be used for different scenarios


In economics, land comprises all naturally occurring resources whose supply is inherently fixed. Examples are any and all particular geographical locations, mineral deposits, forests, fish stocks

Land Matters:

Land matters are referring to the legal ownership of each property (landed or high rise property) and restrictions on the land title itself.

1.8 Organization of the Study

This research work is organized in five chapters, for easy understanding, as follows

  • Chapter one is concern with the introduction, which consist of the (overview, of the study), statement of problem, objectives of the study, research question, significance or the study, research methodology, definition of terms and historical background of the study.
  • Chapter two highlight the theoretical framework on which the study is based, thus the review of related literature.
  • Chapter three deals on the research design and methodology adopted in the study.
  • Chapter four concentrate on the data collection and analysis and presentation of finding.
  • Chapter five gives summary, conclusion, and recommendations made of the study.

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Introduction

It is pertinent to ascertain that the main objective of this study was to examine dispute resolution in land matters in Nigeria.

In the preceding chapter, the relevant data collected for this study were presented, critically analyzed and appropriate interpretation given. In this chapter, certain recommendations made which in the opinion of the researcher will be of benefits in addressing the challenges and causes of land disputes and conflicts in Nigeria.

5.2 Summary

This study has shown that Nigerian citizen’s face many challenges in order for them to operate in a manner that is consistent with human rights. These challenges range from the problematic use of customary law as the only source of law, and historical, social and legal factors to a multitude of is-sues related to armed conflict and its aftermath.

The study revealed that it is importance of taking time to review existing laws for dispute resolution at the local level before introducing new laws, policies, and systems. Even though legal records and systems were devastated by armed conflict, dispute resolution reform remain and play significant roles. In introducing the new laws, policies, and systems in post-conflict countries, it is therefore important to consider their impacts and establish statutory legal systems that can coexist with these laws.

5.3 Conclusion

Land is a key factor of production in Nigeria, and access rights are a major flashpoint for land issues. Limited economic opportunity and the need to survive drive many land disputes, while others are driven by the failure of investors to engage with communities in a manner that is transparent and respectful of local values. These disputes arise in an environment where mechanisms for delineating boundaries, determining tenure, resolving disputes, and negotiating access are hindered by weaknesses in customary and formal law and by misunderstanding between stakeholders

It is clear that land dispute resolution systems need to be strengthened at all levels in Nigeria. Timely, accessible and effective land dispute resolution at the local level is particularly needed so that conflicts are dealt with while they are still manageable.

Ongoing land disputes in turn inhibit the productivity of small-scale farms due to reduced cultivation, decreased investment, and loss of economic assets. Moreover, while many land owners seems to welcome private investment, the engagement of private sector actors in the region has been compromised by limited transparency in the negotiation of land use, mistrust of outsiders among Nigerians, and fear of instability and limited awareness of investment opportunities on the part of private sector actors. The economic consequences of land conflict limit growth and constrain economic opportunity, perpetuating the conditions that drive many of these disputes.

5.4 Recommendations

  1. The slowness of the current processes of land dispute resolution should be urgently addressed in the country.
  2. The role of chiefs in land dispute resolution should be strengthened (Corrin Care 1999) however, the best form for such formal recognition needs further consideration.
  3. Strengthen land mediation and negotiation mechanisms, so that disputes are resolved in a timely and peaceful manner and access is provided equitably and transparently.
  4. Support conflict-sensitive business practice as a means of promoting peaceful private sector investment. Possible activities include facilitating stakeholder involvement in land use negotiations, advising private sector firms on positive community relations, raising awareness among community members about the positive benefits of private sector investment, and raising awareness among private sector actors about investment opportunities in Nigeria.

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